Sunday, July 25, 2010

Happy Birthday to Me

Thanks to Janie, Stan and Brenda Goodell, Steve and Shelly Sandler, and some friends we will talk about later, I had a trip to remember and a birthday to never forget. To begin the adventure, Goodells and Sandlers wanted to take a motorcycle trip to Colorado and the timeframe just happended to coincide with mine and Brendas birthdays. Hers is on July 14 and mine is on July 15. Most people don't believe that there is only one day difference in our ages.
The Goodells got an early start, leaving Celina a few days before the rest of us, for a family get-together in Santa Fe. The Sandlers and us left later and spent Sunday night in Raton, NM, then met Goodells in Taos on Monday and headed north.

We toured through Colorado, did some tourist stuff and rode some of the most wonderful and scenic roads available in the U.S. Janie and I had seen many of the places we visited, but you just never see enough Colorado. It is so different and varied, you see something new around each corner, and there are many corners. On Monday, after meeting the Goodells, we went to Durango and spent the night there. Tuesday, it was on to Silverton; the Million Dollar Highway to Ouray. There are so many places to stop and take pics, it is hard to make serious miles, but we were running along with the planned schedule (our "planned schedule" leaves plenty of room for variables). Silverton, Colo.

Stan & Brenda just before Ouray

Janie (chief photographer)

On to Durango for our first night in Colorado. We stayed at a locally owned motel with clean, spacious rooms in the edge of Durango. Most everywhere now has WIFI and this was no exception, but the reception was very selective. The puters would not work in our room, however, if you went outside to a picnic table and sat under the biggest pine tree I have ever seen, the service was not bad. I had been having a problem with my cruise control and Stan and I could not figure out how to fix it. Gina and Ray did some research on the internet and sent me a file they found discussing the probable causes. Stan did some minor surgery and I am on the road again.

Tuesday morning we are on the road again. Today, we saw Blue Mesa and some breathtaking views of the Black Canyon. None of us had seen this before and it was a real treat. This canyon looks to be thousands of feet deep with sheer walls on both sides.

Our next planned stop is Carbondale. Janie and I had not been to Carbondale in about 35 years. This was back when I was riding English Trials and one leg of the nationals was being held in Fairplay. We stayed a couple nights at a fishing camp in Carbondale before going on to Fairplay. I practically ruined an Ossa trials bike there and did not get to ride in the nationals, but thats another story.

Wednesday, July 14. Happy Birthday Brenda! We headed to the Aspen area and stopped in the older part of Aspen to d0 a little light shopping and sight seeing.

Bear made of nails.
Back on the road in search of Leadville and points beyond. One of the highlights of this trip for Sandlers was to visit old friends in the Steamboat area. Once upon a time, the Sandlers lived there and made some lifelong friends. We parted company at Leadville, with the Sandlers going to see friends and the rest of us headed toward Estes Park. We made a stop in Fairplay for lunch then its back on the road.

We arrived at Estes Park late afternoon on the 14th. Just in time to celebrate Brendas 29th birthday. After checking in and resting awhile, we went out to eat then back to the motel. Janie and I decided to ride up into the Rocky Mtn. National Park and familarize ourselves with which entrance would be the best for sightseeing. We got back to the motel well after dark but the cold was a very welcome change from the heat of todays ride.
Thursday, July 15, 2010

Some of you have heard me say that possibly my favorite place of anywhere I have been is the Rocky Mountain National Park. Whether intentional or by coinkedink, Stan had us in this beautiful place for my birthday. I knew this was going to be a great day, but I just didn't know how great. The Park was as beautiful and memorable as ever and we spent a lot of time looking and taking pics. As expected, we got pics of snow capped mountains, mountain lakes and elk. This part of the trip took about a half day and Janie and I have been told that we would try to spend the night somewhere around Evergreen, Colorado. Close to Evergreen is Mt. Evans. We decided to ride up the mountain.
Top of Mt. Evans
Stan and I had been up on a previous trip but Janie and Brenda had not. This is the highest paved road in North America with views you cannot believe. When I was there before, we were in the clouds constantly and I only got see a small portion of what is there. On top is a herd of mountain goats that mingle with the tourists which makes for some unusual pictures. Staying the night anywhere is great with us but somewhere during the day, Stan asked me if I ever knew or remembered a guy named Mike Dunafon. I had become acquainted with Mike over 20 years ago when he was singing and entertaining in our area. I remembered him as a very good entertainer with a great voice and just a very funny and very likeable guy. I remarked to Stan that I was cleaning out a drawer at my office awhile back and came across his card which read "Mike Dunafon, Entertainer". I wondered at that time what had become of him but gave it no further thought. Unbeknowest to me, Mike provided the music and Stan and Brendas wedding but they had not seen him in probably 20 years either, but thought he was in the Denver area. Brenda looked him up on the net and left word that they would like to have dinner with him if possible. Mike returned Brendas call and Stan asked him to find us a couple of rooms in the Evergreen area and we would have dinner together. Mike reported back that there were no rooms available and we had no choice but to stay in his and Debbies castle that night. We had a wonderful dinner at Cafe Prague, thanks to Mike and Stan, then adjourned to the Castle. It had been a long and wonderful day so Janie and I retired to our rooms and left the Goodells and Mike to catch up on old times. Around 3AM they had finally caught up. The next morning, I got up a little early as usual, went upstairs and found a nice spanish lady waiting to make coffee. It was so quiet and peaceful with no one up and stiring, a great cup of coffee and a sky without one single cloud. The castle was in the process of being prepared for a wedding to be held there on Saturday night so it was exquisite with beautiful fresh flowers and every blade of grass manicured perfectly. The castle is located on 17 acres with the Bear River forming a semi circle around it. Some of the river is diverted to flow through the fish ponds and the mote. This castle is amazing. Our room for the night was on the ground floor of one of the turrets. This made a portion of the room round shaped with two fainting couches, beautiful large windows and all the appropriate niceties befitting a castle. Go to and see much more of this wonderful place. It consists of about 13,000 Sq. Ft and is not only a residence but is sometimes used for weddings and different events. It is absolutely beautiful and Mike and Debbie were impecable hosts. What a birthday!
Our bedroom
July 16, 2010 -- Homeward bound

On Friday, we headed kinda south toward Celina with Manitou Springs being our destination for tonight. There are so many things to see around this area, you just cannot ignore them. We found some rooms, got checked in and, WOW was it hot. It was a sizzling 101 when we got to town and the AC was a welcome relief. After cooling down somewhat we went to the downtown area of Manitou and did a little walking around, shopping and had a late lunch. Then it was off to The Garden of the Gods, which was good to see again.
Saturday, July 17, 2010

This was to be our last sight seeing day on the trip. We started with a whirlwind ride up Pikes Peak. I think I am one of the few that really likes to ride up this mountain. Janie and I have been up many times and I just don't get tired of it. Janie, on the other hand, does not like the gravel road and dust, etc. but you just can't get this close without going up Pikes Peak. It was hot when we started up and the powers that be decided we could not pull the trailers up so we unhooked and left them at the bottom. I did not realize that our jackets were in the trailer and really got cold going up to the top. Refreshing! The bikes tried to overheat going up so we had to try to keep up some speed to keep them cool but everything worked out and it was good. There are some wonderful views from this mountain, just beautiful.
Pikes Peak
After Pikes Peak, it was time to head to Raton,NM to meet up with the Sandlers and come home. We got to Raton mid to late afternoon and checked in. By this time with this many miles behind you, action and sight seeing is not something that you look foreward to so much. We had dinner at K-Bobs, met the Sandlers and went to our rooms. Sunday morning Stan and I left Raton at about 4:00Am hoping to beat some of the heat. Steve and the girls left a couple of hours later. We arrived at Celina at around 3:00 Pm with the rest of the group arriving at around 6:00 PM. What a wonderful trip with some great friends! How do I top this birthday next year. May be impossible.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Las Vegas--finale

This is one of the many pics we took on the trip. Above is the dome above Fremont Street which is about two blocks long. It is a virtual light show which goes on and on, complete with sound. This is quite a show in itself. Located on this stretch is Binions, Golden Nugget, 4 queens and a few other casinos that once were beginning of Las Vegas. It is still one of the best attractions when you are sightseeing and it attracts a large crowd.

Just a few of the casinos along Fremont Street. Benny Binions place was one of the originals and is involved with so much history, quite a few books have been written about Binion and his control of gambling in both Dallas and later in Las Vegas.

The places on the strip are so much more modern with all the free shows or rides or shopping and are hugh. The architecture on the strip is so varied and unusual it attracts hugh crowds.

This picture was taken from our hotel room at the Mirage. We were on the 18th floor overlooking the strip. The fire is a volcano starting to erupt. This happens hourly every night. The fire spreads about a block on the water and with all the noise, fire and smoke, it is another great show.
Probably the show we enjoyed most was the water fountain show at the Belagio. It only lasted about 4 minutes but was a great success.

The area in this portion of the U.S. is so much different than the area we see on a daily basis. Within a half days drive of Las Vegas is either the North Rim or the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. Also, Zion National Park is within that range. Any of these famous sights are worth your driving time. We made a trip to the North Rim of the Canyon, taking in Zion National Park along the way. This makes a long day but not a minute is wasted. This picture was taken on the drive to Zion National Park and is typical of the roads you see in this part of the world. Beautiful. Las Vegas is a trip of a lifetime but, to me, it pales when you get to view sights such as this. Roads like this can best be seen from the seat of a motorcycle, but this ain't bad.

We hear so much about the Grand Canyon, that it is a must see if you are anywhere near any part of it. Well, everything you hear about it is so true. Like so many other people, I have only seen a small portion of the canyon and I have no idea how much time it would take to see enough of it that you would just not care about seeing any more. In reading some history, a few people have dedicated their lives to exploring the canyon. There are so many places Janie and I have not had the opportunity to see, but this is one that deserves a second trip. Someday.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Las Vegas -- The Trip

We finally finished packing after the fireworks show. I don't know exactly how to classify the balloon festival this year. It looked like the weather was going to be perfect for balloons but the balloon wazoo declared the wind too strong. So, again, the balloons did not fly. Other than a balloon festival with very little balloon activity, everything else went great.

We were up at 4 AM and in Frisco around 5:15 for our chauffered ride to the airport. (Thanks Gina and Ray). Lift off was about 7:30 AM with nothing out of the ordinary. After a couple hours we touched down in Las Vegas to a heat index of around 102 degrees, but its a dry heat. Hot is hot, wet or dry. We rented a auto and checked in to the air condtioning as quickly as possible. As usual, I try to cram all I can into a day and with such an early start, I had a lot of work to do on Sunday. After checking in, we dashed out to Hoover Dam. I thought since it was Sunday, everyone would be checking out and heading home. If they were all going home, they were all driving and they all lived just south of the Hoover Dam. Traffic was bumper to bumper and moving really slowly, with all the parking lots full when we finally got to the dam. It was certainly worth the wait. The new bridge now under construction is quite a site.

After the Dam trip, we came back to the Mirage and began trying to get more familiar with everything going on around us. We were kinda wide eyed and walked way too much. Parking is so limited, walking is a must. There are just too many things to see. We asked for a room with a view of the strip so we are on the 18th floor, overlooking the strip and the Mirage fountains. From our window, we can watch the Volcano erupt from above. That is quite a show.

When this thing erupts, we can hear the explosions.

After dinner at the Olive Garden, we parked somewhere around Binions and went to Fremont street. If you have not been here, Fremont street is about 2 blocks long and only walking traffic is permitted. The street is entirely covered and a light show happens every hour or so on the ceiling. There is nothing like this in Celina. We watched with very large eyes until it was over, then listened to some great street music. This was a long day, but a great way to start a trip.

Monday, June 28 was our 47th anniversary. We had walked almost 200 miles Sunday so Monday did not start with a bang. We were going to breakfast but the lines were so long, we gave up and walked other parts of the strip taking pictures and seeing the sites. We have pictures of every fountain and every waterfall on the strip. There is so much to see in this area, you just can't get it done in a day or two. We had dinner at Carvings here at the Mirage. It was a great day. We had agreed that this trip would be our gift to each other and it was a great gift.

Shopping at the Forum Shops at Caesars Palace was a different experience. In one wing the ceiling makes you feel you are outdoors at about dusk. There are so many fountains, statues,(some moving) that you just cannot take it all in. The shops are fairly exclusive which is another word for expensive but a lot of people watching goes on here.

Tuesday, June 29 was another great day. We tried to get an early start with the intent of driving to the north rim of the grand canyon. The start was not so early. By Tuesday, both of us were having a few problems walking. Considering I had brought the wrong shoes and Janie had a blister started on a toe, plus were were getting sore from all the walking we were both needing rest. Again, there is just too much to see here. We did drive into Utah and Arizona and decided that while we were going to the North Rim, we should also see Zion National Park. We detoured to the park and had a great time. It was certainly worth the extra time that we had not allowed for this side trip. After Zion, we backtracked and once headed for the Grand Canyon.

What great roads on the way to both parks. Though I had been to both, this was Janie's first trip to both places. She took tons of pictures. We had planned to have lunch at the canyon restaurant but with detouring to Zion, we got to the canyon while the restaurant was closed. They were just getting ready to open for dinner but we decided to get some pictures and head for Las Vegas. It had already been a long day and I still had about 250 miles to drive to get back to Las Vegas. We debated very seriously about getting a room somewhere between the Canyon and Vegas but decided we could make it. The North Rim was certainly worth the entire trip. Janie was surprised at the mountains around the area. At Las Vegas, we had been suffering through 100 plus temperatures but at the canyon, the temp was in the low 80's and the elevation was over 8200 ft. What a welcome break from the heat. The canyon was a beautiful site. It is just so massive and colorful with all the layers of rock which make up the walls. Awesome!!

This sure makes you feel insignificant. I drove and drove and drove to get back to LV and finally made it about 11:PM. It was a very long day, but what a memorable time. We didn't walk so far today but we were traveling about 15 hours including sightseeing time. We decided Wednesday would be a day to take it a little easier.

Wednesday, we did not get in much of a hurry. Got up and had breakfast at BB Kings place here in the Mirage. After that we walked around and took a lot more pictures. Also, decided this was to be our lucky day and started feeding the slot machines. As usual, I lost and Janie won, but I am a much better loser than Janie is a winner. It was fun. We went across the strip and had a very late lunch at Outback. Stuffed ourselves then came back to the room and Janie took a nap while I was trying to download pics and get some of this written down. The days and nights are starting to run together for both of us. My memory is about as useful as a run over dog. Late this afternoon, we walked about 6 miles to the Bellagio for their water show. This was absolutely the best!! Next, we walked about 8 miles to Treasure Island for their pirate show. After that, we caught a tram back to the Mirage and to a cool room and a little sleep. Today has been a fairly long day. We have spent most of it indoors with the temperature around 107.

Thursday, we fly home and try to get these tired legs back to a more usable condition. Though I have missed the motorcycle, this has been a great trip.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Las Vegas

This will be my first trip in a long time without my motorcycle. Our anniversary happens to fall on June 28. This is always on the weekend of our family reunion and for the last four years the Celina Balloon Festival and fireworks is on that weekend. Having been on the Board of Directors for the Chamber of Commerce for about 50 years, the balloon festival has been very important. Since I resigned from the chamber board a few months ago, I do not feel such a great responsibility for this event and will not be working there constantly for two or three days and nights. Janie and I decided that for our 47th anniversary this year we would take a trip for a few days and actually celebrate.
A motorcycle trip would be good since we both really enjoy this. During our planning, we decided to go west but also decided it would be HOT. I had been to Las Vegas once with Stan Goodell on a great ride to California and the north rim of the grand canyon. Though Janie has been to a lot of wonderful places without me, she has never been to Las Vegas or the Grand Canyon. Also, even though neither of us are really into gambling, everyone should see Las Vegas and the attractions in that general area. So---we are going to Vegas! We will stay around Celina on Saturday, June 26 to help with the festival for awhile, then Gina and Raymond (daughter and son-in-law) will be taking us to the airport early Sunday for our flight out. We will be staying at the Mirage and trying to see Vegas and do all the tourist stuff for a few days. We will be flying back Thursday night, July 3.

Depending on how we feel, we will go to Orange, Texas either on Friday or Saturday. This is going to be a great family weekend. A lot of the family will be going there and meet at the home of Stacey and Kyle Walker for the weekend. They are such a great couple and it is going to be fun, fun, fun.

Since this is my first attempt at blogging, so this is also a test to see if this really works. I hope to post some pics of our anniversary trip.

Thanks to Gina for setting this up for me. This was my fathers day gift. She is a unique kid.